Academic journal article URISA Journal

Improving the Design and Implementation of Beach Setbacks in Caribbean Small Islands

Academic journal article URISA Journal

Improving the Design and Implementation of Beach Setbacks in Caribbean Small Islands

Article excerpt

Abstract: Beach erosion presents a hazard to coastal tourism facilities, which provide the main economic thrust for most Caribbean Small Islands. Traditionally, strategies such as seawall and beach nourishment have been used to address this problem. However, these strategies tend to be very expensive and serve as short-term solutions. More recently, beach setbacks have been widely adopted as an effective long-term approach to addressing the impacts of beach erosion. Research has been directed at developing a GIS-based beach analysis and management system (BAMS) that has tools to assist coastal managers and planners with managing coastal resources and hazards. This paper presents and discusses the results of the third phase of BAMS development, which focuses on developing prototype GIS tools that improve the design and implementation of individual beach setbacks in Caribbean Small Islands. The Southeast Peninsula of St. Kitts is used as a case study to develop these tools and to demonstrate their functionality. Also discussed is a framework for evaluating beach setback and how these setback tools can be applied.


Caribbean Small Islands, (1) like most developing coastal regions, continue to concentrate their settlements and tourism activities along the coastline. Unfortunately, these areas are prone to natural hazards such as beach erosion, storm wave attacks, and coastal flooding. These islands have adopted the integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) approach to address such concerns, particularly to minimize the impacts due to beach erosion. Seawalls, beach nourishment, and setbacks are strategies often used to address this problem, with the use of beach setbacks emerging as the preferred approach. The drawback, however, is that in most Caribbean Small Islands (e.g., Nevis, Anguilla, St. Kitts), setback distances have not traditionally been based on any scientific foundation, for example, long-term erosion trends and the influence of events such as storms and sea level rise.

The development of a geographic information systems (GIS)-based beach analysis and management system (BAMS) has enabled the use of existing coastal data and analysis techniques for implementing a variety of ICZM tools in Caribbean Small Islands. This paper documents the third phase of BAMS development, which focused on developing tools for designing and analyzing beach setbacks. The method used for improving setback calculations is discussed. An integral part of this method is the use of existing erosion modeling techniques to estimate short-term beach changes due to episodic events such as storms. A sample beach setback calculation is also presented. Further discussion is also presented on a framework for evaluating setbacks that will be considered as the foundation for future BAMS tools.

Beach Analysis And Management System Overview

BAMS is a GIS-based decision support system developed as part of a research effort to improve existing ICZM tools and expand the results from a coastal erosion hazard assessment that was completed as part of the Post Georges Disaster Mitigation Project for St. Kitts and Nevis (). It was designed for the management of coastal resources and beach erosion hazards. The Southeast Peninsula (SEP) was chosen as a case study area for developing and demonstrating system tools and functionality. The following sections briefly describe the case study area and the BAMS tools developed in earlier phases.

Case Study Area: The Southeast Peninsula, St. Kitts

The SEP is a 4,000-acre region that constitutes almost 10% of the area on the island of St. Kitts (Figure 1). It was created as a result of volcanic action, originally giving rise to a series of islands that, through sand accretion and marine deposits, were eventually joined. These natural processes have created diverse characteristics such as beaches, steep hills, mangroves, coral reefs, sand dunes, and salt ponds. …

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